The EcoGrrl Interview: Heather



I’m psyched to have you all meet Heather Cyrus, who I met over social media!   She writes a cool nature-focused blog, Environmental Communications, works in Public Relations here in Portland (with an awesome focus on green organizations) and has also been volunteering her services at Lettuce Grow, where I serve on the Board of Directors.  She’s got tons of energy and is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever know.  I’ve loved getting to know her, and hope you enjoy learning a bit about her as well!

What or who inspires you most? I love hearing stories about individuals overcoming big obstacles to achieve greatness.  The strength of the human spirit can be so powerful, and I admire those that overcome adversity and go on to share their story in order to inspire others. It may be cliché, but I always think, “If that person can go through that much hardship, maintain a positive attitude, and do good in the world, then I certainly can!” I’m a sucker for those NPR storycorps sessions.

What do you turn to when you need strength? Usually when I’m overwhelmed, depressed, or simply lacking motivation, if I get myself in nature all the worries tend to melt away in minutes. The fresh air, the solitude, and the beauty of the outdoors simply re-centers me. I’m so blessed to have a very supportive partner as well, it’s amazing how a loving hug can make everything better (my daughter is good at that too). I also have self-help type books on hand and inspirational quotes.

How can women best support and/or empower other women?

I think constructive criticism is important. I’ve been deemed “too nice” by many, but I have grown to value my ability to deliver criticism in a diplomatic and kind way. We are all learning through life, and we make mistakes. When I provide feedback, I’m doing it because I want you to be your very best. When I see women being strong, standing firm and fighting for themselves, it empowers me to do the same.

What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday? I love growing herbs. It’s such a treat to have an herb garden to pick from when cooking; basil is probably my favorite. I also love growing tomatoes because they are so expensive in the store. It brings me great satisfaction to save tons of money growing my own.

I would love to live somewhere tropical for a while and grow avocados, lemons, mangos, papaya, etc. – yum!

What are your creative outlets? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t? I used to love scrapbooking, but I haven’t done it in awhile. I still write in a journal (yes, with a pen). I enjoy writing on my blog and sharing items of interest. I have always wanted to get into documentary storytelling and editing for radio or film. I love the idea

of putting all the pieces together to help raise awareness about topics of concern, or celebrating great achievements. Radio and film are such powerful mediums. I remember watching Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine in 2002, and realizing the potential in documentaries, it changed my life. Mr. Moore was my hero for a few years!

In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element? I enjoy being in a leadership role in many situations. I have the kind of personality that always wants to see things be better, and I have the passion and drive to step forward and make a difference, this feels natural to me. I recently joined the board at my daughter’s school because I saw things I think need improvement. Instead of complaining about the items I don’t like, I decided to work towards the change I would like to see.

Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?

  1. Columbia Slough Watershed Council – I live in the Columbia Slough watershed, and I thinks it’s important to support your local community nonprofits, and local environment. The CSWC does great work with restoring the watershed and working with youth teaching lessons of stewardship and creating outdoor classroom experiences.

  2. Lettuce Grow – brings sustainable gardening education to prisons in Oregon. I love the idea of providing prisoners with positive tools and experiences to take with them when they leave the system. The organic food is used in the prisons as well as donated to the Oregon Food Bank, a win-win all around.

  3. Sierra Club – is my national organization I have loved and supported for years. They do such great work on so many levels from changing legislation, to empowering our youth to become future leaders for environmental protection. I love the Sierra Club magazine, and I appreciate the club’s mission to get people outdoors (especially their urban youth programs) to enjoy nature.

What recent “green” change have you made in your own life? What’s next? We just got chickens this week. Some say this is green, some say it’s not, but we are pretty excited. Rain barrels, or some sort of rain catchment system is next on my list.

Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary?  Why? Definitely any natural outdoor setting. I love being in the woods, near running water…hiking to a waterfall is my favorite. It’s a special treat when I find myself at any hot-springs location too.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Don’t worry about what other people think, and follow your own heart. Think about why your feeling certain emotions, rather than just blindly feeling them. Don’t envy what others appear to have, and appreciate all the little things.

How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet? We have to recognize that measuring success using GDP is not measuring true success. As a society, we have to make it “cool” to care about the planet, not just an optional alternative lifestyle that people in the Northwest do.

Educating the youth is key. Creating healthy habits when we are young is far easier than trying to break bad habits when we are older.

We must pay attention to the production loop; where do the resources come from to make something, how is it made, and where does it go once we are done using it. This short film is getting old, but is still very relevant and so well done, The Story of Stuff explains this cycle perfectly.

What sparked your interest in environmental issues?  What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did? I have always cared for nature, and being outdoors resonated with me as a young child. My grandmother was an inspiration. She would hike mountains, go cross-country skiing, backpacking and camping by herself. However, as an adult, I must say watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth really made me think, “Oh shit, things are bad, and we need to do something about it NOW!” This is when I started working on campaigns to promote climate change awareness and started volunteering for Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group and the Sierra Club to host workshops and sustainability events.

How do you live simply? Here are the first 20 I thought of:

  1. Bike & public transportation (when I use my car, I plan multiple stop trips)

  2. Hang my laundry to dry

  3. Grow some of my own food

  4. Compost, Recycle and Reuse

  5. Bring reusable bags to the store

  6. Buy in bulk with Reuse containers

  7. Buy from thrift shops and local businesses

  8. Utilize the library

  9. Use a refillable water bottle, coffee mug, and take containers to fill for to-go food

  10. Carry around with me wooden utensils for to-go food (no thanks to plastic forks!)

  11. Use reusable containers in my daughter’s lunch

  12. While waiting for cold water to turn hot, I fill a pitcher that I can later use to water plants

  13. The bike I use was a present for my 13th birthday (that was a while ago)

  14. On that note, I try not to replace anything until it’s REALLY broken

  15. Utilize Re-use stores and Craigslist

  16. I’m a crazy person about using every last tiny bit of anything (I hate to waste). I turn bottles upside down for days so I get every last drop, I cut my toothpaste tubes to get the last scraps, I use spatulas relentlessly to get every bite out of the bowl. 🙂

Can you leave us with a favorite quote of yours? “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” ~ Audrey Hepburn


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